May 1, 2013
Boost Your Immune System With Boogers For Lunch?
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
Scott Napper certainly has a way of making a first impression.
In his biochemistry classes at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Canada, Napper poses the following question to his first year students:
“Does eating your boogers boost your immune system?”
This, says Napper, gets the students instantly engaged in the class, exchanging ideas rather than dutifully taking notes.
It´s a question which is sure to grab someone´s attention, (and headlines as well) but is there any proof which suggests a person´s dried nasal mucus contains restorative powers?
In an interview with CBC News, Napper suggests that the “sugary” taste of snot could be a signal to children that they should be eating their mucus as a way to prevent future illnesses.
Ever the natural father, Napper then goes on to make a statement which is sure to embarrass his young daughters for the rest of their lives.
"I've got two beautiful daughters and they spend an amazing amount of time with their fingers up their nose," said Napper. "And without fail, it goes right into their mouth afterwards. Could they just be fulfilling what we're truly meant to do?"
The basis of Napper´s suggested theory is simple. In the same way that children who are completely shutoff from bacteria develop weak immune systems, children who take in some of these pathogens may be rewarded with a stronger immune system. This could result in better resistance to allergies and autoimmune disorders.
"From an evolutionary perspective, we evolved under very dirty conditions and maybe this desire to keep our environment and our behaviors sterile isn't actually working to our advantage," Napper said.
As with anything in science, the only way to answer this hypothetical question is to simply go out there and try it. Napper, it seems, is not yet ready to run the test himself.
“All you would need is a group of volunteers. You would put some sort of molecule in all their noses, and for half of the group they would go about their normal business and for the other half of the group, they would pick their nose and eat it," said Napper.
“Then you could look for immune responses against that molecule and if they're higher in the booger-eaters, then that would validate the idea."
Napper even said he´s been approached by some people who are willing to digest their nose droppings in the name of science.
While Napper explores the possibility of becoming healthier by eating your boogers in Canada, one doctor in America has all but dismissed the idea.
ABC News asked Dr. William Schaffner about the potential health benefits of eating the bounty of one´s nose. He explained that this happens naturally all the time, meaning we´re all about as healthy as we´re going to be.
“It happens naturally all the time, and the cells in your own mucous membranes are exposed to whatever is in the mucus constantly,” said Dr. Schaffner, chairman of the department of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University.
“Because it´s part of your own body fluids, you swallow nasal secretions all the time during the day and while you´re asleep.”
Professor Napper seems more interested in this theory as a hypothetical question to get his students engaged and interested in the idea of science rather than a persistent question which needs answering.
He also believes, however, that there are some who are determined to get to the bottom of this question.
"I'm actually a little concerned they're going to start mailing in samples of who knows what," he said.